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Hello Sweet Art: A Week in Culture

10/09/2015 17:08 | Updated 10 September 2016
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I don't know about you but I've always thought that arts criticism would be way better if it read like the diary of a confused teenage girl. Hence my decision to start writing this blog. Here are some things I like this week.

Oresteia, Almeida Theatre

What it is: A three hour Greek tragedy marathon exploring the functions and frailties of the family.

I'm not sure if you've noticed, but the Ancient Greeks were literally ALWAYS killing their own kids. They would never get a CRB check these days.

There's a pretty intense scene of filicide in the first act of Oresteia. I've seen it twice now, and both times, you can tell absolutely no one watching knows what to do with themselves. Because it's one of the worst things you could ever see and yet you can't draw your eyes away because this production is eloquent, measured, fearless and beautiful, and it grips you like a vice.

There are moments in Oresteia that make me think I need to put a winter coat on. Because they give me actual chills. To see Agamemnon come face to face with the ghost of the child he's killed. To see that child standing, haunting the action, singing God Only Knows, like a creepy, adorable dead baby Brian Wilson. Chills like I've never known.

Before I saw Oresteia, I vowed never to watch a play by an old dead Greek philosopher guy ever again, because I thought they were honestly more boring than Sudoku. This one changed everything. Lia Williams and Angus Wright - Klytemnestra and Agamemnon - take you through the full spectrum of human emotions. Robert Icke is a poet, visionary and genius. Go and see it or rue the day you were born. Sweet art? Truly.

Lady Chatterley's Lover, BBC One

What it is: An adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's infamous novel, where the gamekeeper gets a bit too close to Lady Chatterley. Literally. They are having sexual intercourse.

The BBC doing literary adaptations and period dramas is my absolute jam. On a Sunday night it honestly just makes me feel like everything in life is going to be okay. If I was running the BBC, I would get rid of Top Gear, QI, and Bargain Hunt, and just go through all of literature. Just start with Beowulf and go from there.

Now, I've never read Lady Chatterley's Lover. But I swear there was a lot more pure filth. The actual 'c' word was used.

In this adaptation, on the other hand, there was no pure filth, and no 'c' word. It was a bit like The Notebook. All the rude bits were all soft and nice and you couldn't even see any nip naps. Let's be honest, you couldn't imagine The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks inspiring an obscenity trial. And you definitely couldn't imagine a judge saying 'Is this the kind of thing you would let your servants read?', because if I was a lord of the manor, I'd love my servants to read The Notebook, because it's a reminder that rich lady's vaginas are out of bounds to the scummy working class.

But in a way I can forgive this adaptation for its cautious approach to pure filth, because I love the way it explores class war and masculinity, and turns a mirror on the male gaze.

But ultimately it's just all a bit sanitized. Everyone looks very beautiful, but when even the dead soot-covered miners look beautiful, you wonder if that's what D.H. Lawrence and his beard would have wanted.

People Places and Things, National Theatre

What it is: A vivid depiction of one woman's experience of drug addiction and rehabilitation

I read somewhere recently that the theatre is like an empathy gym. And my experience of sweating and crying and everything else I do in the real gym (I'm joking of course I don't go to the gym) actually feels quite private to me, so often I go alone.

Which is why I felt bewildered and violated when the guy next to me kept staring at me - fully turned his body 90 degrees and OGLED with disbelief - and then kept whispering to his girlfriend 'DO YOU THINK SHE'S BEEN STOOD UP?' No pal, I'm on a hot date with myself, my brain, ART and CULTURE. Jeez just let a gal kick back and watch a play about drug addiction FFS.

But anyway. It might sound a bit unnecessarily confrontational me saying this, but I think if this play doesn't meddle with you in a fragile place, you don't know what empathy is. And you should probably stop going to theatre, or leaving the house. (Actually, no, wait, that's wrong. Start leaving the house. Go and talk to some people!)

Duncan Macmillan's play asks, what if you feel like you're a walking human void, and the only thing that can fill it, or make you forget that you feel that, is going to kill you? And what's voided you? Let's just say a man near me INVOLUNTARILY GASPED at one point in this play. You're not even supposed to have your phone on in the theatre, so I bet involuntary gasping is considered serious rule-flouting.

And Denise Gough, who IS this play, IS the Laurence Oliver of 2015. Except her technique doesn't just involve being posh and doing voice wanking. Listen to this ace podcast that confirms her brilliance.

A Book For Her by Bridget Christie

What it is: A book full of jokes about feminism. Yes, women ARE hilarious.

I knew I loved Bridget Christie when my sister-in-law told me this amazing anecdote. She said she bumped into Bridget Christie before her show and said she was looking forward to it. And Bridget replied 'WELL I'M GLAD I DIDN'T DO A MASSIVE POO THEN'.

If this book has one use, it's that it has given us a clear working definition of feminism so now we can all stop whinging and nagging like irritating little moan-y women, and all just GET ON WITH OUR LIVES. She writes, "All it means is that I am extremely hairy and hate all men, both as individuals and collectively, with no exceptions."

This book is now going on to the GCSE syllabus for three reasons (I've decided that. That's one of the powers I have). 1) It made me laugh loudly on the tube like a loud, shameless, lipstick-covered walrus. 2) Christie writes frankly and helpfully about how hard she had to work and how many knockbacks she had before her breakthrough. And 3) she writes about feminism in a way that can be funny and passionate and inspiring, all at the same time. But as she says, to be fair, women are multi-taskers.

Belle and Sebastian, The Party Line

This is my favourite song of the week. It goes out to the new Labour leader.

Oresteia is at Trafalgar Studios until 7 November
Lady Chatterley's Lover is on iPlayer here

People Places and Things is at the Dorfman, National Theatre, until 4 November
A Book for Her by Bridget Christie is out now and published by Century